The Ropen and “Hunting Monsters”

Gitmo Pterosaur of Guantanamo Bay Cuba, sighting in 1965

Is the ropen a real animal, a modern living pterosaur? We now look at part of a Kindle book written by Darren Naish: Hunting Monsters – Cryptozoology and the Reality Behind the Myths. I’ve not read the whole book, so I’ll review only part of it, from the paragraph that begins with “moving away from tropical Africa” to slightly beyond the paragraph that ends with “how not to do an interview.” I personally deemed this book not worth purchasing, so I have to be content with reviewing only the portion that I can see on the Google-books page. Fortunately for me, much of the book’s content on living pterosaurs and the ropen seems to be available in Google-books.

I believe this portion of Hunting Monsters is in the fifth chapter, “Mokele-Mbembe, Ropen and Other ‘Prehistoric Survivors.’” If it turns out that significant content on living pterosaurs is in another part of the book then consider that my evaluation might need to be updated or modified. At any rate, this is not a standard book review, only an examination of a small part of this nonfiction by Darren Naish.

And yet this post you have just begun reading, long as it may be, is my response to only part of that small portion of the Kindle book by this paleontologist. Other points must be set aside for other blog posts.

Whitcomb vs Naish on Living Pterosaurs

We need to be clear about one point, something Dr. Naish and I (Jonathan Whitcomb) agree upon: that many varieties of pterosaurs known from fossils are extinct. The ones known to paleontologists outnumber the types known from sightings. We disagree completely, however, on the meaning of eyewitness sightings, for he believes that none of them were the result of a non-extinct pterosaur. I believe that some of them were precisely that: modern living pterosaurs.

Even the most optimistic cryptozoologist, after careful research, should come to realize that many species of pterosaur have probably become extinct. Exactly when they became extinct is open to questions that paleontologists like Naish appear unwilling to ask, yet the long tails with Rhamphorhynchoid-like flanges and the pointed head crests dominate too many eyewitness reports to ignore. Because of the great variety of forms known from fossils and the narrow range of descriptions in many reports of modern flying creatures, it seems obvious: Most species of pterosaurs are surely extinct.

We also agree that not all reports of a modern pterosaur come from encounters with living pterosaurs. This has probably often been overlooked, this point of agreement, perhaps overlooked even by Naish himself. I have found that at least a small portion of accounts appear to be one of the following:

  1. Misidentification of a non-pterosaur
  2. Hoax (including some YouTube videos)
  3. Mental health problem of the one reporting the encounter

Yet Naish and I appear to have taken different routes entirely. I dig into the details to get a better understanding of each report. I have spent well over 10,000 hours on the total sightings, including the many cases appearing to be unrelated to the three types shown above. I doubt that Dr. Naish has spent even 1% as much time on pterosaur sightings, for why would a typical paleontologist spend 100 hours objectively researching something that appears to undermine the foundation of his or her beliefs about when such flying creatures lived on this planet?

Yet we agree on some things. Dr. Naish and I agree to some extent on the quality of interviews of eyewitnesses. He mentioned my name but did not go into details about any particular interview that I conducted (he seemed to have been referring to my evaluation of an interview done by one of my associates when he mentioned “Jonathan Whitcomb”). If he had mentioned the details in my interviews with three young men (Gideon, Mesa, and Wesley), he would have been correct in saying that a number of factors were far from ideal.

But to sweep aside two whole expeditions on Umboi Island in 2004, because of perceived imperfections in interviewing technique in some of the interviews—that appears to be too extreme. I don’t expect Dr. Naish to invent a perfect time machine to take scientists millions of years into the past to prove his theories about ancient pterosaurs; my associates and I should not be expected to kidnap all the wildlife photographers in the world to force them to go with us to Umboi Island to get perfect video footage that proves the ropen is a modern pterosaur. So how often has an witness in a court been given perfectly conducted questioning? We need a practical approach, not an extreme dismissal of everything that might appear imperfect and contradicting our previous assumptions. If a particular interview had serious problems then those particular problems in that interview should be discussed. Dr. Naish appears to prefer to avoid bringing any such details to light.

Beware of jumping to the careless conclusion that a few pages in Hunting Monsters prove that all the expeditions and interviews and research of living-pterosaur investigators over the past 22 years is worthless. And those few pages in HM do not come close to refuting what is found in four scientific papers (three of them published in peer-reviewed journals), articles that are clearly in defense of modern pterosaurs. I see nothing in Naish’s book that even hints that any of those four scientific papers exist.

An Overview of Book Reviews of Hunting Monsters

Seventeen Amazon customer reviews of this new book, as of May 23, 2016, should give us enough to judge its popularity.

  • Five Stars: 70%
  • Four Stars: 12%
  • Three Stars: 12%
  • One Star: 6%

Many books on Amazon do worse than getting 70% top ratings from readers. I recommend going over these Amazon customer reviews of Hunting Monsters to learn the details. Before moving on, please be aware that I do not suggest that most potential readers will be disappointed after purchasing this book. Amazon suggests at least 70% will be satisfied with their purchase. But a small part of Hunting Monsters has major weaknesses; I cannot speak for the rest of the book.

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Gitmo Pterosaur of Guantanamo Bay Cuba, sighting in 1965

Sketch by an eyewitness (sighting in Cuba in 1965)

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Quetzalcoatlus and Sightings of Flying Creatures in Texas

Hunting Monsters, in this part of the book, has with a statement about sightings of apparent pterosaurs (ropen or otherwise) in the USA, in particular Texas. But do “most” sightings of apparent pterosaurs actually date to the “1970’s” as Dr. Naish declares? Not necessarily. Closer examination reveals that the actual sightings are spread out over decades.

But what’s so important to Naish about the 1970’s in Texas? It’s the discovery of Quetzalcoatlus fossils, beginning in 1971. The conjecture is hardly new. Other skeptics have also stumbled into this assumption: that news reports either caused or contributed to citizens in Texas believing they had witnessed living pterosaurs when they had actually not. The conjecture fails to include any details about exactly how it takes place, so skeptics can chose which explanation they like:

  1. Foolish Texans see ordinary birds and think they are seeing pterosaurs
  2. Hoaxers want attention, so they give false reports

Naish does not come close to proving either of the above, however, only suggesting that those are proper explanations for pterosaur sightings in Texas soon after the discovery of the Quetzalcoatlus. So where are the details that would give credence to the above two explanations for those sighting reports? Naish gives no detail at all, at least not in this part of his book: No particular sighting report is examined for judging the plausibility of those two explanations. Real science thrives on details and on numbers, but the number of analyzed reports he gives is zero.

Please be aware that I’m not out to make Dr. Naish look foolish. Yet a careless acceptance of his suggestion about reports of flying creatures in Texas—that can make quite a few citizens of Texas appear foolish. I will not use the word fool for anybody, for I have personally qualified for that adjective too many times in my own life. In this case, with eyewitnesses in the southern United States, I take the side of the majority: citizens of Texas versus Darren Naish. But still I prefer avoiding pushing individuals into one of two boxes with labels of fool and non-fool. Let’s just see which point of view is more realistic:

  • At least some Texas eyewitnesses reported sightings reasonably accurately
  • No Texan saw a living pterosaur, for Quetzalcoatlus news tainted their thinking

I submit that the first point of view is far better than the second.

At the end of 2012, I compiled a list of sightings: 128 reports, each of which I deemed more likely than not to have been from an encounter with a living pterosaur (worldwide sightings). I never said that it was close to a complete list, but I personally interviewed or questioned the eyewitnesses in close to 74% of these sightings.

This was more than just a simple listing, however, for the compilation had details like the following, with many of these involving a yes or no answer:

  • Definitely no feathers
  • Only probably no feathers
  • Long tail
  • Tail but not long
  • Head crest
  • Feet
  • Teeth
  • Wingspan
  • Tail straight
  • Tail flange
  • Tail length
  • Head-crest length
  • Total length
  • Clear sky
  • Cloudy sky
  • Clear view of creature
  • Length of sighting in seconds
  • Number of witnesses
  • Height flying (when closest to the ground)
  • Distance from eyewitness to flying creature
  • Any soaring or gliding
  • Any slow flapping
  • Any fast flapping
  • Near swamp or marsh
  • Over water
  • Near water
  • Any change in direction (of flight)
  • Year of sighting
  • Year of interview or year when interviewing began
  • Daylight
  • Night
  • Twilight
  • Country (if not in USA)
  • State (if in USA)
  • Number of creatures
  • Long neck
  • Neck length
  • [plus about a dozen other types of data or questions]

Of those 128 sighting reports, eight were in Texas, with these sighting years:

  • 1976
  • 1976
  • 1976
  • 1982
  • 1983
  • 1986
  • 1995
  • 1995

Please keep in mind that this is hardly a complete listing of sightings in Texas. These are the ones in Texas that attracted my attention and each appeared unlikely to have been from a hoax or misidentification or mental-health issue. Also be aware that I have been involved in sightings worldwide, while the cryptozoologist Ken Gerhard has investigated flying-creature sightings that were mostly in Texas. We’ll soon get to Gerhard’s writings.

Dr. Naish mentions “flaps,” which I interpret as temporary but concentrated interest in a subject of local or regional news. In Hunting Monsters, he says that they usually go away within a few weeks, and this is in the context of sightings of apparent pterosaurs in the state of Texas. But how do news reports of Quetzalcoatlus fossils relate to sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs in Texas? Let’s look at that.

The first fossil discovery of that species of pterosaur was in Texas in 1971. What an excitement that would have caused for paleontologists! Yet not every citizen of Texas is a paleontologist like Dr. Naish. So let’s examine all the pterosaur sighting reports that came out immediately after that exciting fossil discovery . . . well, actually not one sighting report seems to exist for within a few weeks of that discovery, at least not among the reports that I had compiled at the end of 2012.

Yet what if my reports from Texas are too limited? After all, they number only eight. Look at Big Bird – Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters by Ken Gerhard, which was published in 2007. Here are the sighting years for Texas:

  • 1945 to the “present”
  • Pre-1958
  • 1970
  • 1971 (Harlingen)
  • 1975 (Robstown)
  • 1975 (Rio Grande City)
  • 1975 (San Benito)
  • 1975 (near Los Fresnos)
  • 1976 (five miles south of Harlingen)
  • 1976 (two police officers see “white bird with 15′ wingspan”)
  • 1976 (near Brownsville)
  • 1976 (ranch north of Poteet)
  • 1976 (Raymondville: wingspan=10-12 feet; leathery featherless skin)
  • 1976 (Loredo)
  • 1976 (northeast of Brownsville: resembled “Pteranodon“)
  • 1976 (near Olmito)
  • 1976 (San Benito)
  • 1976 (Del Rio)
  • Late 1970’s (Brownsville and Edinburg)
  • 1976 (near San Antonio: three eyewitnesses)
  • 1976 (Montalba)
  • 1976 (Bethel)
  • 1981-1983 (Houston)
  • 1983 (east of Los Fresnos)
  • 1983 (Hondo)
  • 1990’s (Rangerville)

Of the above twenty-six Texas sighting reports listed in pages 77-79 of Gerhard’s book, which ones might have been caused by 1971 news reports of the Quetzalcoatlus? Well, maybe one, and that one is questionable. On page 77, it says, “unusual, brown bird.” That sounds like a puny “flap” to me. Why should anybody assume that news of a fossil discovery would cause that one eyewitness to think that an unusual-looking brown bird would be a non-extinct pterosaur? And even if it did, it would not explain the many other sighting reports.

I’m not saying that Dr. Naish is 100% wrong about news reports having a relationship to eyewitness accounts of apparent living pterosaurs, but I see a better suggestion about how it works.

What would citizens of Texas see in those news reports in 1971? Scientists found some fossil bones of a pterodactyl. How could anybody conclude from that news report that such flying creatures might still be alive? Suggesting such a conclusion appears to me to be insulting Texans. Perhaps one person might find a bone somewhere and wonder if it might be from that flying creature in the news, but even that possibility is questionable. To think that a newspaper or television news story would cause a considerable number of Texans to see ordinary birds and think they were “pterodactyls”—that strikes me as ridiculous.

I see a better explanation for any correlations that may become apparent between news reports of the Quetzalcoatlus fossil discovery and eyewitness accounts: News professionals are much more likely to publish reports of pterosaur sightings when such flying creatures are, or have recently been, in the news. Its the job of newspaper reporters to get relevant, timely news into their papers, so they are much more likely to publish stories about encounters with possible live pterosaurs when the that kind of flying creature has recently been in the news. In other words, the statistics of those sightings indicate they may happen in any year and in any decade, but they are published and brought into public attention much more when news professionals see timely news and then publish the encounters.

Indeed there may have been more news reports published and presented on television in the mid-1970’s in Texas, regarding the Quetzalcoatlus discoveries, for more fossils were found in 1972 and 1974. As I understand, Douglas A. Lawson published something about these discoveries in the journal Science in 1975. This is perfectly in harmony with the idea that an increased number of living-pterosaur sighting articles in Texas came from an increased awareness by news professionals, not from any increase in the number encounters themselves.

Something else may have completely passed by the attention of Darren Naish. Valid eyewitness encounters with actual living pterosaurs may not have increased after the Quetzalcoatlus fossil discoveries but the eyewitnesses themselves may have been more likely to recognize the significance of what they had seen after they read about those fossils in the newspapers. In other words, actual sightings of non-extinct pterosaurs could have been reported much more frequently when the fossil discoveries were in the news, but the numbers of actual encounters did not change.

Before leaving this examination of sighting reports in Texas, let’s consider a brief Google search that I conducted on May 23, 2016. The following phrase was used: pterosaur sightings in Texas. Of the ten results on the first page, one was for images, but the other nine revealed some interesting facts on the years of reported sightings of living pterosaurs:

Six were in 1976 and eight were in other years, as follows:

  • 1982
  • 1982
  • 1986
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2008
  • 2011
  • 2013

In other words, most of the sighting years do not appear to correlate closely with discoveries of Quetzalcoatlus fossils, and even if they did, it could easily be explained by an increased openness of news professionals to publish those sightings when the fossil discoveries of such flying creatures were already being published in newspapers and presented in television news broadcasts.

It may appear, on the surface, that the year 1976 may be significant, with all those reported encounters with apparent pterosaurs in Texas, yet it’s not likely anything close to what Dr. Naish declared in his book: He said that the “flaps” die down after a few weeks. In reality, reports of living pterosaurs in Texas not only do not die down within a few weeks, but they continue for years. In addition, they are seen to have arisen even before the first discovery of a Quetzalcoatlus fossil in 1971, according to Ken Gerhard’s research.

In Defense of the Ropen

One more detail on which Dr. Naish and I agree: The ropen is not a Quetzalcoatlus. In fact, the descriptions of the modern long-tailed flying creature correlate with the features of a Rhamphorhynchoid (“basal”) pterosaur, not a Pterodactyloid short-tailed pterosaur.

From the end-of-2012 compilations of data from the more-credible sighting reports, we learn that the ratio of long-tail to no-long-tail is close to twenty-to-one (41% to 2%). That’s a clearly significant statistical fact, for the 41% is for the entire 128 sightings. So why do so many eyewitnesses, worldwide, report long-tailed pterosaurs when the media and fiction films and television science fiction shows have so many short-tailed pterosaurs? The long-tailed ropen is the dominant type of pterosaur now living on this planet.

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The Long Tail of the Ropen

The Fiery Flying Serpent of the Bible may have been a long-tailed Rhamphorhynchoid, related to the modern-day ropen.

Pterosaur Sightings Data for the USA

This includes the sightings in Texas, but also it has many other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, etc.

Fossils are Evidence of Life, not Extinction

The Mesozoic Objection for live pterosaurs and Darren Naish (a paleontologist)

Ropen Sighting

Peter Beach and Milt Marcy, both of the Portland area of Oregon, led an expedition in Papua New Guinea, in March and April of 2015, searching for a living pterosaur . . .

Ropen in Texas and in New Mexico

. . . modern pterosaurs in the United States, in spite of extinction dogma. Marvel at eyewitness accounts in many of the states: California, Texas, New Mexico, Florida, and in other states.

Pterosaur Sighting in South Carolina

Susan Wooten, of Greenville, South Carolina,  was driving from home to Florence (about  1989) when she saw a giant creature glide  over the highway in front of the car.

Marfa Lights in Texas – a Ropen?

A few American cryptozoologists, including the Californians Jonathan Whitcomb  and Garth Guessman, and the Texan Paul Nation, have searched for nocturnal  bioluminescent flying creatures described like Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs. . . .

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New to the Public: Sightings Data for USA

a little data on living-pterosaur sightings

I now make my pterosaur-sightings data available to the public, from the compilations leading up to the end of 2012, for the forty-eight contiguous states of the USA, for the more credible reports. Out of the 128 sightings (worldwide) in that compilation, 90 were in the lower-forty-eight states. For details on those sightings in the USA, see these images (Be aware that the first one, with columns B-U, is the only image designating, on the left, the kind of data):

Pterosaur Sightings – columns B through U

(CA, TX, IN, SC, FL, KY, WI, MI, AR, OK, GA, RI, ME, NY, MD, KS)

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Pterosaur Sightings – columns V through AN

(OH, CA, GA, TX, NM, WA, PA, MI, WI)

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Pterosaur Sightings – columns AO through AZ

(TX, CA, KY, AZ, FL, GA)

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Pterosaur Sightings – columns BA through BL

(NY, PA, NJ, GA, MI, NC, OR, WA)

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Pterosaur Sightings – columns BM through BW

(CA, MN, WA, MT, ID, SC, AR, MS, NC, KS)

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Pterosaur Sightings – columns BX through CM

(GA, VA, CA, NC, OK, NY, IL, LA, WA, AL, AZ, FL)

Be aware that five of the above can be understood only by referencing the top one, which contains an explanation in the “A” column for the kind of information: “long tail” (yes of no), length of sighting (in seconds), etc.

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Introduction to the Data on American Pterosaur Sightings

Except for column-A, each column is for a sighting report in the United States of America (NOT including Alaska and Hawaii). Column-A is the type of data, for example row-3 is for the presence or absence of a long tail. Many of the cells are empty, for most eyewitnesses gave limited information on their encounters.

What do I mean by “more credible sightings?” Each sighting report in this compilation (including the 90 here examined) was judged by me to be more than 50% likely to have been an actual encounter with a living pterosaur.

In what state was a particular sighting? Row-44 tells you that, usually in the two-letter abbreviation used by the U.S. Postal Service.

What do I mean by “Non-JDW interviewer?” Row-47 tells who interviewed an eyewitness. I’m JDW (Jonathan David Whitcomb), and “JDW+” means I was one of the interviewers. I interviewed eyewitnesses in at least 64 of the 90 sightings (71%+).

What do I mean by “Concerned of opinions?” Row-24 is for indications of whether or not an eyewitness was worried about what people would think about their reporting a sighting of an apparent “pterodactyl” or “dragon” (by whatever name). For 75 of those 90 reports, I did not get anything recorded in the database, but 14 indicated they were concerned and one indicated no concern. In light of the 14-to-1 ratio, I feel sure that the great majority of the remaining 75 did indeed worry about what other people would think about them.

In What States Were the Sightings?

The following shows how many sightings were in the 33 states involved.

Alabama: 1

Arizona: 2

Arkansas: 2

California: 13

Florida: 3

Georgia: 7

Idaho: 1

Illinois: 1

Indiana: 2

Kansas: 2

Kentucky: 2

Louisiana: 1

Maine: 1

Maryland: 1

Michigan: 2

Minnesota: 1

Mississippi: 1

Missouri: 1

Montana: 1

New Jersey: 2

New Mexico: 2

New York: 5

North Carolina: 4

Ohio: 3

Oklahoma: 2

Oregon: 1

Pennsylvania: 3

Rhode Island: 1

South Carolina: 2

Texas: 10

Virginia: 2

Washington: 6

Wisconsin: 2

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Notice that in the two states with the largest human populations (California and Texas) we have more sightings (13 and 10) than in other states and that these are also the two largest states in land area (48-contiguous states). The third-place award for most sighting reports is Georgia, with seven. This state is average in land area but large in human population, eighth in the United States according to a July-2014 estimate.

Why so Long in Coming?

Why has it taken so long for this pterosaur-sighting data to be made public? I compiled it at the end of 2012 and made certain statistical data available in 2013. But I saw that it would be too easy for many persons to jump to wrong conclusions, if they had all the raw data. At least one or two prospective armchair researchers were actually expecting to learn something about migratory patterns from the many details that I had compiled on encounters with apparent pterosaurs in the forty-eight contiguous states of the USA.

But what can anybody learn about migration patterns from a teenaged girl who throws a few stones over the edge of a cliff, causing a “pterodactyl” to fly off the edge of that cliff and glide away down the river gorge? The direction of flight has no relationship to any migratory pattern, for that flying creature was just trying to avoid getting hit by a flying rock. You might as well take note in which direction a running back is running with a football and try to figure out in what city he’ll be playing the next game, next week.

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Image of the Kinds of Data

feathers, or lack; long tail?; head crest; etc

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Pterosaur Sighting by a Ms Wooten, in South Carolina

Susan Wooten, of Greenville, South Carolina,  was driving from home to Florence (about  1989) when she saw a giant creature glide  over the highway in front of the car. . . . “It looked as big as any car, and had NO  feathers, not like a huge crane or egret”

Pterosaur Sightings in North America

What about sighting reports? Can’t they help us understand migration for these featherless flying creatures? Not likely. Look at a few examples. A teenager and her dad are standing at the top of a cliff as the girl is tossing stones over the edge. A large “pterodactyl” flies off the cliff, just below the humans, soaring out over the river below. The flight direction has nothing to do with any migration . . .

American Pterosaur Sightings (and in Papua New Guinea)

From 2005 until the present, eyewitness reports in the United States have rivaled those in Papua New Guinea. As some Americans learned about the live-pterosaur investigations in the Southwest Pacific, eyewitnesses of similar flying creatures reported encounters to Jonathan Whitcomb; he analyzed the  many accounts and then wrote the non-fiction book Live Pterosaurs in America . . .

California Pterosaur Sightings (Los Angeles)

The sightings were a little over a mile apart, both from drivers on the northbound Interstate-5 Freeway, just east of Griffith Park, near Glendale.

Texas Pterosaurs

What does Texas have to do with extant pterosaurs? A lot. Not only do eyewitnesses report apparent living pterosaurs in Texas, but two Texans are pioneers in this cryptozoological investigation.

Flying Creature in Georgia

This past Wednesday, January 2, 2013, I received an email from an eyewitness in Missouri. The sighting was not old: “about 45 minutes ago.” But the present hot spot for sightings, in the past few weeks of cooler weather, is the state of Georgia, with two sightings in December of 2012.

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Whitcomb's nonfiction book

Cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America

From the back cover of this nonfiction:

The author, Jonathan Whitcomb, the world’s most prolific writer on living pterosaurs, here shares with you years of interviews with Americans who have encountered the rare nocturnal flying creatures whose descriptions make them nothing other than pterosaurs . . .

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“Pterodactyls” in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas

Many eyewitnesses have called the flying creatures “pterodactyls,” although the correct name for the large non-bat featherless flyer is “pterosaur.” Let’s examine some of what has been reported on sightings in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Texarkana, Arkansa, Sighting, About 1982

I received an email from this eyewitness many years ago.

We saw the creature for approximately 20 seconds. We did not see any signs of feathers just sharp edged wings, the sharp pointed beak, and the sharp pointed crest on its head. We did not see any tail. I have looked at my dinosuar book and the picture of the pteranodon looked like what we saw.

Woodward, Oklahoma, Pterosaur Sighting

From page 33 of my book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition):

About [1985] . . . in Woodward, Oklahoma, near a small river, at about noon, a fourteen-year-old became terrified at the sight of a pterosaur-like creature.

“I was walking to the small river where I usually caught carp fish. . . . a large animal took off into the air. At first I thought it was an eagle. Then I noticed it was a dinosaur. . . . I was afraid it would eat me. I stared at the back part of the head because it was exactly like the ones depicted in books. . . . had a long neck and wide wings just like in the movies or in books. It had no feathers and it was flying around and looking downwards into the fields.

“I was really afraid. . . . I never told anyone about this until now. People think you’re crazy when you tell them about something like this. The creature [looked] like it was dark brown. I was really close to it.”

“Pterodactyl” in Southern States

. . . a huge, featherless bird in Arkansas . . .  We were sitting on big rocks at a cliff about 300 foot above the river when it flew out just under us and we watched it all the way down toward the river till it passed the tree lines. It was an awesome experience, indeed.

Pterosaur in South Carolina

 “Susan Wooten was driving east on Highway 20 . . . on a clear mid-afternoon in the fall of about 1989 . . . [She] saw something flying from her left, then passing in front of her . . . ‘It swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines,’ . . . ‘It looked as big as any car . . . NO feathers, not like a huge crane or egret, but like a humongous bat.’”

 

Cover of third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America - with sketches 4-A

“Batman” of Houston, Texas, 1953

This “batman” may be a modern pterosaur. Before quoting the story from Big Bird (nonfiction cryptozoology book), by Ken Gerhard, I’ll make an observation about night sightings of glowing flying creatures in general. When a bioluminescent barn owl or a ropen (or perhaps another flying creature that glows) gradually turns off its glow at night, what is a likely result? If the night is very dark, a person observing that reduction of glow would probably see the form of the flying creature for a short while but when the glow is completely out, then there would be nothing visible; in other words, the creature would literally disappear from view, even though it was still there in the dark.

From Page 64 of Big Bird

[An] incident, which occurred in Houston’s historic Heights neighborhood during the early morning hours of June 18, 1953, involves an entity that has become known as the Batman. . . . Hilda Walker, Howard Phillips, and Judy Meyers, were sitting on the porch . . . a huge shadow passed over their heads, landing in a nearby pecan tree. . . . The shadow appeared to resemble a tall man donning a kind of paratrooper uniform, but with bat-like wings attached. [It] seemed to be encased in a grey halo of light, which faded out slowly as the mysterious figure vanished in front of their startled eyes.

I have not interviewed any of the eyewitness nor read the original newspaper article, so my idea is speculative, but it could have been a large bioluminescent flying creature.

Two Glowing Pterosaurs in the Caribbean

 . . . between about 1:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., her daughter called her to come out to the balcony to “see something weird.”

The lady told me, “The minute I stepped onto the balcony, I knew exactly what she wanted me to see. Off in the distance were two very, very large, pink/orange flourescent birds flying behind each other. They looked like the flying dinosaurs . . . They would fly towards the ship, then back out to sea, then fly together in tandum then make a sharp right, away from the ship and disappear into the night. Then they would return. We witnessed this activity for about fifteen minutes.”

Marfa Lights

The cryptozoological possibility seems weird, but there are similarities with the ropen lights of Papua New Guinea, and there the lights are said to be nocturnal flying creatures described like giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs: long-tailed ropens.

American Ghost Lights (those that are bioluminescent owls)

Prosecution: What exactly do you do for a living?

GL: Every night I look for food.

Prosecution: Why at night?

GL: It’s what my family’s always done. It’s all we know.

Prosecution: But not always totally in the dark, is it?

GL: No, sir. Sometimes I glow. It runs in the family.

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large image of the back cover of the 3rd edition of Live Pterosaurs in Ameridca

From the title page of Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition):

Reports of huge flying “pterodactyls” in American skies have floated around the internet for years; but before about 2005, details were scarce. When an eyewitness was named, the interviewer was often anonymous; even when an eyewitness was credible, and the account published in a newspaper, the story was ridiculed, discouraging others who had also seen strange flying creatures. Where could eyewitnesses go? What a predicament for them! Who would believe their reports?

Jonathan Whitcomb is a modern pterosaur expert